The Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan T.D. was at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly to switch on I-LOFAR telescope, the largest radio telescope in the world.
The International LOFAR (LOw Frequency ARray) Telescope is a €150 million network of radio telescopes distributed across Europe. Irish Government and agency investment in research has propelled Ireland to the forefront of radio astronomy.
The Irish telescope, I-LOFAR, is located at Birr, Co Offaly adjacent to the historic Leviathan telescope, which was built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1845 and was the largest optical telescope in the world until 1917. The telescope in Birr has been supported with an award of €1.4 million from Science Foundation Ireland and the annual membership fee for LOFAR will be funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
Speaking at the event the Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan T.D. said, "I am delighted to turn the switch on I-LOFAR and link Ireland with our European partners in this pioneering research collaboration in astronomy. Membership of LOFAR affords a unique opportunity for research and engagement to young people across the country with astronomy and science in general. As Minister it is my distinct pleasure to be here to celebrate the achievement of such a wide section of the Irish scientific community."
Also in attendance at the event was Offaly TD, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, who said the switching on of this telescope "puts Birr on the map."
“It is fantastic for Birr to be part of the largest radio telescope in the world," she said.
“I was delighted to play my part in supporting this project from the beginning which is largely funded by Science Foundation Ireland along with private and local funding. The next phase of the project is equally exciting with the development of a Visitor Centre which will be a wonderful resource for schools not only locally but nationally," Corcoran Kennedy added.
Joining LOFAR marks another important milestone in the implementation of Innovation 2020, the national strategy for research and innovation. It will support exciting, world-class scientific research and in addition the data intensive nature of radio astronomy will enhance Ireland’s world-leading capability in big data and data analytics.
The skills in software and big data that young researchers will acquire from participation in LOFAR are in high demand in business and will open diverse and high quality career opportunities for them.
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